New Jersey Woman Admits Conspiracy To Circumvent Minority Owned Business Requirements For Federal Projects
NEWARK, N.J. –A Union County, New Jersey, woman today admitted accepting kickbacks in exchange for using her company as a “straw” contractor that allowed non-minority owned firms to circumvent regulations on federally funded transportation projects, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Carol Sanzo, 69, of Cranford, New Jersey, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge William H. Walls in Newark federal court to an information charging her with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
The U.S. Department of Transportation requires that general contractors seeking to perform certain work on federally funded transportation projects must either subcontract, or demonstrate a good faith effort to subcontract, a percentage of the work to Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs), which include small businesses that are at least 51 percent owned by women, Hispanic Americans, African Americans, Native Americans, and Asian Americans.
Sanzo owned Sanzo Ltd., a purported broker and supplier of construction materials that she operated as a DBE. Sanzo admitted that in return for kickbacks, her company would act as a “straw” or “pass-through” DBE and accept payment for goods and services that were actually provided by non-DBE contractors on federally funded projects.
For instance, Sanzo admitted that from 2008 through July 2011, she acted as a pass-through between a prime contractor and a non-DBE fuel provider on the Willis Avenue Bridge Project in New York. In order to circumvent the DBE requirements, Sanzo submitted multiple documents that falsely represented that Sanzo Ltd. was supplying fuel to the Willis Avenue Bridge Project when it was actually being supplied by the non-DBE fuel company.
The wire fraud conspiracy to which Sanzo pleaded guilty carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gain or loss from the offense. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 18. 2016.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents with the U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Douglas Shoemaker, and criminal investigators of the Port Authority, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Inspector General Michael Nestor, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.
The government is represented by Special Litigation Counsel Andrew Leven of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Economic Crimes Unit and Barbara Ward, Acting Chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Unit in Newark.
Defense counsel: Raymond Brown, Esq., Woodbridge, New Jersey